This was first published in January 2012. We highlight it again today in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—Editors
Here in the United States we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national holiday to remember his role in civil rights struggles of the last half of the twentieth century.
While King was perhaps the movement’s most recognizable figure, the struggle for racial equality would not have happened without countless thousands of individuals who stood up to centuries of bigotry, violence, and inequality in ways both large and small.
The words from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech are written in practically every U.S. history text in the country: “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children . . . will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
Of course, long before King, Jesus taught His followers to pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In other words, we don’t have to wait until heaven to embody the principles of God’s kingdom, which include, but are not limited to, justice, mercy, equality, love, generosity, and tolerance.
Think of the difference a little generosity and tolerance would have in our nation’s political discourse. Imagine how justice and mercy would begin to bridge the gap between the nation’s haves and have-nots.
I’m not talking about some vast organized political movement; I’m talking about small, seemingly insignificant acts that can affect the climate of our relationships between one another.
Last summer I was filling my motorcycle with gas. As I worked the pump, my gloves fell off the handlebars and onto the ground. A guy from the next island—not my island—noticed, came over, picked up my gloves, and handed them to me. He didn’t have to do that; I could’ve picked up my own gloves. But that simple act of thoughtfulness told me he was living the dream.
One day I stopped at the cleaners to drop off a couple pair of trousers. As the woman at the counter wrote up my order, another woman walked up from the back of the store and said, “You must’ve been a beautiful child, because you’re one handsome man!”
My first reaction was to look around to see whom she was talking to. When I understood that she was talking to me, I realized that she was living the dream. “You just made my day,” I told her.
Martin Luther King, Jr., helped to remind us that we too often let our differences keep us from honoring and respecting others. Too often we let labels, such as Black, White, Hispanic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, young, and old, define how we treat others, rather than treating everyone with the simple dignity Jesus embodied when He walked the earth.
Are we different? Of course! Do we have different likes and dislikes? Without a doubt! But what we all crave is the opportunity—indeed, the freedom—to be treated as individuals who see the same things from different perspectives. Jesus called it doing “to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). I call it living the dream.
We all look forward to when Jesus will return and establish His kingdom of glory. But we can begin living those principles now. All we have to do is live in harmony with the prayer, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Let’s not just dream about a future when hatred, violence, and inequality are vanquished. Let’s put God’s dream for His people into practice now. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the speech, but it’s God’s dream.
Stephen Chavez is coordinating editor of Adventist Review. This article was published January 12, 2012.